Mike Pelfrey's Making Things Harder Than Necessary

The new number one has started the only two losses

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    A penny for Pelfrey's thoughts.

    There will be those who point to Mike Pelfrey's first two starts of the 2011 season as a sign that he's not ready to be an ace starter in the big leagues.

    That may be true, but it may also be an argument that doesn't really matter because those designations don't actually mean all that much when you take the field. Plus, if you're judging off these two starts, Pelfrey doesn't look like he's capable of being any kind of starter.

    The biggest problem has been that Pelfrey is going out there content to get beaten without using any of his best pitches. He's thrown sliders on a quarter of his pitches through two games and isn't getting any hitters to chase those pitches for strikes.

    Pelfrey is at his best when he's got his fastball humming down in the zone to generate ground balls. So far this year, he's gone away from that pitch to use other options that aren't down in the zone or, as evidenced by his five walks, in the zone at all.

    One might be inclined to blame his young catcher for going away from the pitches that Pelfrey throws best. But how much control does Josh Thole really have over his pitcher?

    You wouldn't think it would be all that much. Pelfrey's no kid anymore, he knows what he does best -- as evidenced by his admission that he was throwing his weaker pitches on Wednesday against the Phillies -- and he should be able to tell Thole exactly what he wants to do without any pushback from the kid.

    The problem is that we already know Pelfrey has had issues with his self-confidence in the past. Remember when he took laps around the Coors Field parking lot?

    Fears of a recurrence seemed to go away with Pelfrey's strong 2010 season, but, as Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal points out, his sports psychologist died last month. Two starts isn't enough to make any judgments, but the fact that Pelfrey knows what he's doing wrong without making a change is more than a little troubling.

    That brings us back full circle to the idea of Pelfrey being a number one starter this season. With the lack of any other explanation for Pelfrey's strange decision-making on the mound, we're forced to wonder if he isn't having a hard time wearing the mantle thrust upon him by Johan Santana's injury.

    If it happened once, such thoughts would be stupid. Twice in a row makes it harder to discard it out of hand.

    It's going to be a while until Santana's back, so the Mets have to hope that the mind isn't getting in the way of the arm when Pelfrey's on the mound.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.